Connect Americans Now applauds passage of TV white space joint resolution

The national broadband advocacy group Connect Americans Now is applauding the state Senate’s passage of a joint resolution encouraging the use of TV white space technology, which relies on the unused buffer space between TV channels for broadband internet.

The resolution says legislators “are committed to the advancement of television white space technology” by ensuring the continued availability of at least three unlicensed channels of a certain frequency in every market in the country.

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, says “we’ve had an effort for years to try to make broadband a little more accessible.”

He notes this recent resolution was aimed at the Federal Communications Commission, which is responsible for regulating TV channel frequencies and usage.

Steve Lyons, a government relations and communications specialist with Husch Blackwell and contract lobbyist for the Tech Council, says the FCC often looks at state legislatures and local municipalities to see where they stand on issues like this.

“It sends a message that we’re supportive, which kind of gets it to the 50-yard line on a lot of these things,” Lyons said at the recent Wisconsin Tech Summit, held in Waukesha by the Tech Council.

TV white space technology is heralded by many economic development groups and companies — including Microsoft — as the best option for extending high-speed internet into rural areas.

“Forty-three percent of rural Wisconsinites lack broadband access,” CAN Executive Director Richard Cullen said, calling the resolution “yet another signal that Wisconsin leaders are committed to supporting innovative technologies that will expand access throughout the state.”

The CAN coalition’s Wisconsin members include the Wisconsin Technology Council, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance and the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe.

The joint resolution was put forth in early January by Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, and Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, along with other GOP lawmakers. The Assembly passed the resolution in February.

Marklein said he’s encouraged by the potential of this technology.

“When we passed the state budget, we fine-tuned the grant program so that new technology would be eligible for state support,” he said. “The white space opportunity demonstrates exactly why we must be nimble and willing to try new technology to meet the needs of rural families.”

As support has grown in the state Legislature, Microsoft has been working to expand broadband in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Microsoft recently announced a partnership with Packerland Broadband, a division of CCI Systems based in Michigan. The companies are partnering to bring broadband to an estimated 33,750 people in upper Wisconsin and Michigan by the end of 2019, and approximately 82,000 people by 2022.

This partnership is part of Microsoft’s TechSpark Wisconsin program, which aims to bring more economic growth and new jobs to the state’s northeast region. It’s part of a greater national push to bring more opportunities to folks in rural areas all over the country.

See more on the TechSpark program:

See an earlier story on TV white space technology:

See the joint resolution:

–By Alex Moe